This is my attempt to give you a magazine’s worth of strategy for absolutely free.
In interest of full disclosure, I was one of only two teams to miss the postseason in my 8-team league last season. I even made the rules for the league (lots of bonus points, as in 110 and 160-yard WR and 375-yard QB games; defenses got bigger points for shutouts and other things). I did win four of my last five games.
Here’s my list of 7 tips for this year’s draft (I’ll come up with updated ones later).
1. Elite running backs are now a rarity. Try to get one or two. Unless you are drafting at the end of a 10 or 12-team first round AND Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Cam Newton, or Larry Fitzgerald is THERE, AND Arian Foster, Ray Rice, Lesean McCoy, Matt Forte, Fred Jackson and Demarco Murray ARE GONE, then you should be drafting a RB in the first. I’m also advising that if you get a shot at two of those backs, those should be your first picks. Forte is a lock for 2100 yards from scrimmage, Fred Jackson was third in the NFL with 93.4 ypg on an injury-ravaged 2011 Bills offense.
While I have Mojo being helped by the new weapons on the perimeter (Laurent Robinson, Justin Blackmon, and Lee Evans), he fell out of my top 10 and was replaced in the top 6 by Murray for two reasons: Jacksonville’s #2 RB Rashad Jennings (who was starting to steal a lot of red zone touches in 2010, yet missed 2011) and scoring opportunities. Demarco Murray should have a lot of scoring opportunities now that the Cowboys’ young offensive line has had a full off-season of chemistry, and now that Dez Bryant enters that important 3rd year (many don’t know he scored more touchdowns in his first two seasons than Calvin Johnson did).
I think the best contingency plans if you don’t take one of the 6 are to take Darren McFadden, Steven Jackson, Ryan Mathews (7th in fantasy last year), Marshawn Lynch (receiving numbers should be up), Chris Johnson (3rd in receptions last year, numbers will be up this year), Michael Turner, Adrian Peterson, Trent Richardson or Mojo. Jackson has a lot of indoor games with no real competition for snaps. I expect Richardson to be used a lot like Brian Westbrook was. They’re paying him to be an every-down back, and he has the ability to catch passes and break tackles better than the other Browns backs.
2. There are lots of solid QB’s, but few offensive coordinators willing to show them off. You don’t have to pick a QB early, but be careful about waiting too long to get your #1. Know that only about six quarterbacks have at least three of the following four ingredients in the recipes for fantasy success: Great talent, bad defense, great surrounding talent including O-line, aggressive play-caller.
1. Aaron Rodgers: Great talent, mediocre defense, great surrounding talent including O-line, aggressive play-caller
2. Tom Brady: Great talent, mediocre defense, great surrounding talent including O-line, aggressive play-caller
3. Cam Newton: Great talent, bad defense, and aggressive play-caller
4. Drew Brees: Great talent, mediocre defense, great surrounding talent including O-line, and aggressive play-caller
5. Jay Cutler: Great talent, great surrounding talent, aggressive play-caller
6. Michael Vick: Great talent, great surrounding talent, aggressive play-caller
Schedule is worth knowing, but it’s overrated. If you play a lot of tough opponents but are a pass-heavy offense, you are going to still throw. No one’s schedule is that much more favorable than that of anyone else. The second tier of quarterbacks – who I’ll profess more love for later – are pretty great, too (Peyton Manning, Matt Stafford, Tony Romo, Matt Schaub, Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer).
3. Pay attention. Don’t draft injured players, get to know the offensive and defensive coordinator switches and what they mean philosophically, and look for the best-worst offensive and defensive fantasy schedules.
4. Mid-round, heavily-targeted veteran WR’s (steals in most years) is a top-heavy class for 2012. Steve Smith (Panthers) is not a mid-rounder this year; he’s going sooner. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Santonio Holmes in the 7th (greatest steal of the draft), Randy Moss around rounds 8 or 9, Anquan Boldin in the 8th, and Santana Moss in the 8th (especially if you draft the third week of preseason and he’s had most of the starter reps) this season. But, after that, the only other old dude falling into value (with Mason and Ward retiring, and Driver being undraftable) is Reggie Wayne in the 9th or 10th. Wayne will get a lot of intermediate catches with Fleener, Avery, and Allen taking safety attention. Luck won’t look like a rookie.
5. Try to figure out if the arrow is pointing up or down on the breakout defenses of last year. There were not a whole lot of great pass rushers on the move or in the draft. Mario Williams makes the Bills a little bit better. Quinton Coples makes the Jets a little better. Pay attention to where Aaron Kampman goes. Bruce Irvin is the real deal. If I struggle to find a team with even four defensive phenoms (Orakpo-Kerrigan-Wilson-Jenkins for Redskins, Goldson-Bowman-Willis-Aldon Smith for 49ers, Chancellor-Browner-Irvin-Thomas for Seahawks), I see six (yes, six) for the Texans. Barwin, Reed, Cushing, Smith, Joseph, and Watt will all be 30 or younger at the start of the season. The Eagles defense really was on the rise at the end of last season, but – for fantasy – I like the aggressiveness of the Cowboys defense, which is deeper at corner with slightly better safeties and linebackers than the Eagles D. If you are in a 10 team league where 21 defenses get drafted, all four NFC East will be selected off the board.
6. Here’s my secret: I’m taking duos this year. There is decent value in Manning-Decker (depending on if owners are leery about Manning’s injury, time off, and change of teams), exceptional value in Ponder-Harvin in deep leagues, and the most phenomenal value that will win you your league: Cutler and Marshall. With a duo, you can stack up the double scores. My back-up plan, if I can’t get two duos (and Thomas might pass Decker for the Mile High duo) because Manning and Cutler each go off 1-3 picks before my time on the clock, is to take Schaub and/or Alex Smith in rounds 6 or 8 (waiting until round 8 for QB is a risky proposition), then – if I only have 1 QB – take Jake Locker, Ponder, Carson Palmer or Mark Sanchez in later rounds (you can usually wait until the 13th for Palmer, 11th for Sanchez). I think Ryan Fitzpatrick could have big numbers with his scrambling, but they are sorely lacking depth at skill positions and that’s why I’d take those four over him. Sanchez’s 32 TDs – four more than Philip Rivers’ – were too clustered, but still way up from 20 in 2010 and that’s with Plaxico Burress admitting he didn’t have his legs back the first 10 games of the season. Adding Terance Ganaway, Stephen Hill and Chaz Schilens – and losing Brian Schottenheimer – should bring Sanchez’s TDs to at least 37 this year. Also, if you want a Patriots duo, your best bet really is Brady-Gronkowski, but you can still team up Brady in the 2nd with Welker in the 5th or Lloyd in the 8th-9th. The Patriots threw the football 612 times, 3rd most in the NFL, and just lost their top running back in free agency.
7. As usual, use common sense. Don’t draft a player from your real team unless he’s best player available, don’t draft for trade bait unless you know your owners well or you have deep benches, and don’t draft any Jaguars early (Marcedes Lewis went from 10 TD in 2010 to 0 last season, you can get him last round if you need a second TE), and don’t take a D/ST other than the Texans, Ravens or Cowboys before round 10, don’t take any kickers before the last four rounds.
My first cheat sheets will be up soon hopefully, with final one coming the second week of August.
Follow me at: http://twitter.com/Chris_M_Bach
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